One of the central components of national accreditation is the focus on performance and quality improvement (PQI) programs. This is the process of collecting, aggregating and analyzing data to discover trends and patterns and make improvements (or expand upon achievements) where necessary.
Behavioral health and human services organizations often collect data on key performance areas and internally review them. What many often fail to do is to lift their heads out of a mountain of data to analyze trends and track performance from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. The ability to see performance trends over a period of time allows for more strategic decisions to be made on what improvements are needed and to verify that changes implemented actually have the desired, positive effect that was intended.
But then what? How do you know how your performance stacks up against other organizations? Can you truly prove that you are superior to your competition?
To further increase the value of a quality improvement program, it is highly recommended that benchmarks are used to compare an organization’s performance against internal goals and the performance data from similar types of agencies. Benchmarking allows an organization to compare their data against others in order for it to be meaningful and to fully evaluate program performance.
There have been attempts to benchmark child welfare programs at a national level. While these attempts are commendable, one common complaint is that this kind of benchmarking is not producing relevant results. The idea behind benchmarking is that you should readily be able to determine how your programs are performing when compared to similar agencies. If benchmarking does not help in achieving that goal, then the benchmarking program offers limited value.
Ideally benchmarking takes into consideration the unique aspects of the market. Each state varies in terms of how child welfare programs are structured, their unique regulatory requirements and the services that contracts require. Looking at your program against national data may satisfy a curiosity, but it offers very little benefit for programs looking to improve their services.
One new development in this is the California Benchmarking Initiative (CBI), which will soon be launched to allow child welfare agencies to measure their performance against similar organizations within California; providing more applicable reference points from which comparisons and conclusions can be drawn
From wherever you source your benchmarking statistics, they should be as applicable as possible and further strengthen your quality improvement program. This, in turn, can help you to attain and maintain your accredited status.